IT may have been written nearly 67 years ago but it is as relevant today.

In a leaflet sent to every home in 1948, the government promised the new NHS ‘will provide you with all medical, dental, and nursing care. Everyone - rich or poor, man, woman or child – can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items.

There are no insurance qualifications. But it is not a ‘charity’. You are all paying for it, mainly as taxpayers, and it will relieve your money worries in times of illness.’

Today its founding principles remain largely intact but according to medics the NHS is 'breaking point' with Dorset preparing for the biggest shake-up in its history with its controversial Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) and Clinical Services Review (CSR) which will see radical changes to hospitals, GPs, mental health and community care.

And in the coffee shop of Royal Bournemouth Hospital where everyone from anxious relatives waiting for news of loved ones to patients escaping for respite from their diagnosis, one message was clear ahead of next month’s General Election - that urgent action is needed for an under-pressure NHS.

“It’s no good using the NHS as political football,” said Pamela Mauger, 69.

The grandma-of-seven added: “Health is one of the most important issues for people of this country and it must be a central issue in the election. NHS workers have ensured we’ve got one of the best health services in the world but it’s under pressure. It must be fully funded and safeguarded for the future before it is too late."

Joan Wade, a grandma-of-two, suffers with COPD, and though she has nothing to fault about the care she receives from the ‘outstanding team’, she is frustrated by people who 'use and abuse' the service.

The 75-year-old retired hairdresser from Ringwood said: “The NHS is extremely important to me and it’s crucial we protect it. For me, people abuse it and that's half the battle, I’m afraid.

“If people knew how much everything actually cost, even just a doctor’s appointment, I think it would make a difference. People turn up at A&E when they just don’t need, there are the unnecessary prescriptions for paracetamol for example which is cheaper to buy from a supermarket and there is also a lot of debt from overseas patients.

“With more and more people using the service constantly, it is stretching and it will be at breaking point if these issues that waste millions needlessly are just left.”

Terry Ricketts, 72, from Boscombe: “For me it's the car parking. It’s not cheap. My wife has had some ongoing health problems and when you read about the millions they are making out of car parks, it strikes me as a tax on people that are ill."

The retired civil engineer added: “All the politicians use the health service as a bargaining tool and will tell you anything when there’s an election coming up but then it never happens. This time we need action. The service my wife has had has been excellent but in general I think the NHS is in a hell of a mess. It really gets me when the government gives billions for overseas aid yet they let the NHS go down the toilet."

Arthur Deverell, 82, who served in the 10th Royal Hussars for 25 years, will be voting for Theresa May.

“I think she'll be like an old Maggie Thatcher and I don't think she stands for any nonsense. I think things will improve with her attitude but something needs to be done. I disagree money is going over to other countries and leaving the NHS to pay the price.”

The Kinson resident also highlighted concerns relating to GPs in the county.

“Sometimes it can take 14 days just to see a doctor. Long gone are the days of a family doctor. There just aren’t enough. You see someone different every time. It can’t go on the way it is. I'd want to ask what is being done to tackle the recruitment crisis.”

BMA South West regional council chair Dr Helena McKeown said services in the area are being pushed to 'breaking point.'

She said: “With health services in the south west coming under increasing pressure and STP plans for Dorset set to alter the delivery of patient care, this upcoming election should be a reminder to politicians that more must be done to safeguard the future of the NHS.

“Whoever leads the next government must not shy away from the crisis in the NHS, but must instead outline a long-term sustainable plan that delivers on the much needed investment that staff and patients deserve.”

Julie Connolly, senior RCN officer for Dorset, said: "The key issues for the Royal College of Nursing as the STP strategy progresses is, where are the workforce coming from to fulfil the requirements of the workforce strategy (which we are yet to see)? Also when and how the workforce will receive the necessary training to develop in the new roles which will be developed to enable them to cross organisational boundaries to bring care closer to people's homes.

"If we are to avoid a mass exodus of staff still available and to save millions on agency and locum costs, any new government will need to award a substantial pay award next year, support the protection of good terms and conditions under Agenda for Change and offer a variety of flexible working options to health professionals."